Your franchisor isn't helping out, huh?
What kind of feedback have you gotten from them? Do they have a dedicated franchise success executive? Or a franchisee council to draw experience from?
Your long term strategy is to raise the guest check average for each visit, and increase the frequency of those visits.
Along the way you can look into:
-lowering your cost of customer acquisition
-lowering your cost of fulfillment (food, overhead, labor--I guarantee there's waste now)
-lowering the average time to process an order (eg. in the drivethru, how long from arrival, through ordering, to departure with food? Most strugglers are terrible on this stat).
However, you can only cut so far. Expansion is a far better goal.
What you bought was a system with expectations and controls. Your pricing and costs should be known. If you don't know them, you won't know if you're profitable, and that's something requiring immediate correction if so.
Are you looking at what competitors are doing...or what the top franchisees in your area are doing? Chick-fil-A in my area is doing some awesome things with the drivethru...how they staff it, process orders, increase flow through rate. And there are McDonald's in my area that I know are A listers...those that are mediocre B-level performers...and C-types that have poor standards enforcement, lousy culture, and missing processes. Who's the A-lister near you? I sometimes work with a B who is burning to become an A, and that's fun because I know they'll do the work.
I have owned and operated (for 6.5 years) a successful math tutoring franchise called Mathnasium. My center has ranked in the top 10 (in terms of revenue) for each of the past four years (out of 900 centers).
To increase sales and help with a long term strategy would require significant time, money and dedication. There are several obvious things a business owner should do but may not do.
1: Customer is always #1. Treat all customers like gold and they will tell others about you. People not only buy products they like but mainly from people they like.
2: Treat employees really well. The way the owner acts is the way the employees act. Being nice is contagious. On the flip side being rude is contagious. Treat employees well and they will treat your customers well.
3: Marketing is something I see so many businesses skimp on. They say "I cannot spend $3,000 a month in marketing since my rent is $5,000 a month." Not marketing is like opening a business and not telling anyone you are there. Continue marketing even when you are busy and when marketing seems futile. If you ease off the gas your sales will drop. If your sales drop too much it may be difficult to save the business.
There are about a 100 other things you should do but if you do those three you will be very profitable.
For a long term strategy you need to track your metrics (sales, payroll, etc.) and follow the monthly changes in these metrics. If your payroll as a % of revenue is too high then maybe you are overstaffed or paying employees too much. If your customer complaints are too high then maybe you need to invest in training or process improvements. I use microsoft excel to track my metrics.
You also need to understand how to track your data and what data is useful. You can ask other franchisees, find info online, etc.
Best of luck!
I would suggest you looking into similar franchise owners that are succeeding and do some networking. Consider visiting in person over lunch or arranging a conference call with them. Prior to your visit or conversation, make you a list of questions that relate to your needs and pick their brain. Professional development and networking is important for growth in any field. If all else fails, consider YouTube to educate you on your particular field of expertise.
Jason K's answer hits the nail at every point! Just to add:
- Are you in a growing segment and did you sign up with the right brand and franchisor? If you didn't, don't throw good money after bad money and get out as unscathed as you can and move on. You can't change those factors.
- If you have scale (more than say 10 locations?), use it to your advantage and build the best team you can afford.
- Does your store GM have clear KPI's, among them Transaction (Tx) and Average Guest Check (AGC)?
- Map your 5 minute universe and own it with Local Store Marketing (LSM), not just flyers, but true community engagement.